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Sept. 18, 2013, Prince Albert, Sask. – One of my favorite authors, John Wooden said, “Your behaviour as leader – what you do – creates the environment in which the team functions.” A head coach who claimed 10 NCAA basketball championships – seven in a row – won 88 consecutive games, and was named the national coach of the year six times, knew a little something about teamwork.

September 18, 2013
By Les Karpluk

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Sept. 18, 2013, Prince Albert, Sask. – One of my favorite authors, John Wooden said, “Your behaviour as leader – what you do – creates the environment in which the team functions.” A head coach who claimed 10 NCAA basketball championships – seven in a row – won 88 consecutive games, and was named the national coach of the year six times, knew a little something about teamwork.

As part of this blog series on my seven guiding principles, I want to explore the principle of desire.

The definition of desire is to exhibit or feel desire for. I am a firm believer that desire is the most necessary precondition for becoming a leader. In fact, this desire has to be so dominant, so prevalent in a leader, that it becomes not only a motivating factor for waking up in the morning, it engulfs the leader with the energy and passion necessary to move forward when faced with challenges.

Desire is about living the dream every day; for some this may seem idealistic, but without that dream, without the desire to make a difference, we cannot be effective leaders.

During my 31 years in this great profession, I have had the opportunity to listen to so many leaders (fire chiefs and firefighters) communicate their desire to make a difference. I have also shaken my head as I listened to horror stories about the obstacles placed in front of some of these fire-service leaders. There is something fundamentally wrong when this adversity happens, but as mentioned in my blog on the principle of adversity, facing and challenging this adversity helps us grow as leaders.

I have heard stories that have led me to believe that the desire of these leaders is so strong they simply will not give up. These leaders, both formally and informally, will continue to make a difference in our profession. Some have moved on to other departments; others have moved up the chain of command. I can hardly wait to see where their leadership journeys will take them.

When leaders live and breathe the principle of desire, they are willing to make sacrifices; they take the shots, feel the pain, bite their lips and grin and bear it for the team. No accolades are sought because few others even know what is happening behind the scenes.

Our profession must support and build those who are willing to dedicate themselves and pay the price in the pursuit of becoming the best leaders they can be. For them, leadership is much more than just “feeling a desire for”; it is part of who they are. I fear that if we do not support our present and future leaders, we will be like the Roman Empire, which, as author and basketball coach Wooden said, “Crumbled, not from the outside, but rather from within: internal fighting, bickering and bloodletting.”

Until next time, lead from within and grow.

Les Karpluk is fire chief of the Prince Albert Fire Department in Saskatchewan. He is a graduate of the Lakeland College Bachelor of Business in Emergency Services program and Dalhousie University’s Fire Administration program. Follow Les on Twitter at @GenesisLes.


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